SpaceX wins confidence-boosting Falcon Heavy contract with U.S. Air Force

SpaceX has secured its first major national security contract for its Falcon Heavy rocket, seeing off competing bids from rivals that are believed to have included United Launch Alliance.

The contract for the deployment of a U.S. Air Force satellite is a big vote of confidence in SpaceX’s newest and most powerful rocket, which has so far launched only once.

The Air Force will pay SpaceX $130 million to put its classified Space Command-52 satellite into orbit, with the mission expected to launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2020.

An Air Force statement said the the contract with SpaceX provides the government with “a total launch solution for this mission, which includes launch vehicle production, mission integration, and launch operations.”

SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell thanked the Air Force for certifying the Falcon Heavy and awarding it “this critically important mission,” adding, “SpaceX is pleased to continue offering the American taxpayer the most cost-effective, reliable launch services for vital national security space missions.”

What about the Falcon 9?

Although SpaceX’s tried and tested Falcon 9 rocket has been enjoying a successful run of missions — putting various satellites into orbit and launching cargo to the International Space Station — it’s unable to handle the weight of the hefty Space Command-52 satellite, prompting the Air Force to call upon the services of the more robust Falcon Heavy.

After its successful debut launch in February 2018, the Falcon Heavy become the world’s most powerful rocket in operation. Only the Saturn V rocket, which last flew in 1973, was more powerful.

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy comprises three Falcon 9 boosters whose total of 27 Merlin engines give it more than 5 million pounds of thrust at launch.

The Heavy is able to lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 pounds), a mass that SpaceX notes on its website is “greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel.” This is more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, with missions achievable at one-third the cost, the company says.

Lower costs are possible partly because the Heavy’s first-stage boosters are capable of being landed, recovered, and reused.

Falcon Heavy’s next scheduled launch — its second to date — is Air Force’s Space Test Program Flight 2 scheduled for October, an experimental mission that will see the Heavy carry 25 small satellites into space.

It will also perform a satellite launch for a Saudi Arabian company toward the end of the year.

Emerging Tech

SpaceX nails its first launch and landing of 2019, but job cuts loom

SpaceX has nailed its first launch and landing of 2019 with a mission that deployed more satellites for Virginia-based Iridium Communications. But the success was soured somewhat by reports of upcoming job losses at the company.
Smart Home

Here’s everything Amazon and its partners announced for Alexa at CES

Amazon Alexa is rocking CES 2019. After selling millions of Echo and Dot smart speakers during the 2018 holiday season, extending its reach everywhere, Amazon has announced a ton of new partnerships with device manufacturers.
Cars

See the hotly anticipated 2020 Toyota Supra in motion before its unveiling

Toyota's plan to once again lure enthusiasts into showrooms involves bringing back the Supra, one of its most emblematic nameplates. Here's what we know so far about the upcoming coupe, which Toyota is developing jointly with BMW.
Gaming

Still have holiday cash to blow? Grab one of these awesome Xbox One games

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Emerging Tech

Earth’s magnetic field is shifting, vital map can’t be updated due to shutdown

The Earth's magnetic field is moving, effecting navigation systems of all kinds. A model of the field should have been good until its scheduled update in 2020, however, it has moved so quickly that an update is required much sooner.
Emerging Tech

Scientists debate mysterious flash of light in space, known as ‘The Cow’

On June 16, 2018 there was an unusual flash in the sky which puzzled astronomers around the world. NASA researchers have been collecting data on the event and have shared two competing theories for what could have caused it.
Emerging Tech

Brightest quasar ever seen discovered by Hubble, may be star-producing machine

The brightest quasar even seen has been observed with the Hubble Space Telescope using a technique called strong gravitational lensing. The quasar is enormously energetic and may be producing thousands of stars per year.
Emerging Tech

Watch China’s moon mission touch down on the planet’s far side

Video has been shared of a lander's-eye view of China's Chang'e 4 mission touching down in the Von Kármán Crater on the far side of the moon. The craft captured footage of the descent with a camera which was attached to the probe.
Emerging Tech

The best 3D printers for 2019

On the hunt for a new 3D printer? We've got your back. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran, this list of the best 3D printers has what you're looking for.
Emerging Tech

The enormous ‘Flying Bum’ moves toward a commercial design

A prototype of the world's largest aircraft is being retired as the company behind it prepares to build a production model. The new Airlander 10, also known as the "Flying Bum," could be ready for commercial use by 2025.
Emerging Tech

Face-scanning A.I. can help doctors spot unusual genetic disorders

Facial recognition can unlock your phone. Could it also be used to identify whether a person has a rare genetic disorder, based on their facial features? New research suggests it can.
Emerging Tech

Lasers and bovine breathalyzer help determine how much methane cows produce

Cow farts and belches don't sound like catastrophic threats, but they contribute to the massive amounts of methane in the atmosphere. Recently, scientists set out to establish the numbers.
Emerging Tech

Researchers discover a way to make 3D printing 100 times faster using light

Researchers at the University of Michigan have invented a new method of 3D printing which is up to 100 times faster than conventional 3D-printing processes. Here's how it works and why it could prove a game-changer for 3D printing.
Emerging Tech

Why wait? Here are some CES 2019 gadgets you can buy right now

Companies come to CES to wow us with their cutting edge technology, but only a few products are slated to hit the market right away. Here is our list of the best CES 2019 tech you can buy right now.